Bell Pottinger took a little-known, complex Silicon Valley technology firm to market in Europe – using insight, research and a considered strategy to raise awareness, educate key stakeholders and build advocacy. Thanks to their efforts and a focused campaign, Ripple is now seen not just as a blockchain tech start-up, but as a thought leader in fintech with a higher profile in the UK and Europe. Particularly impressive was the link between Ripple’s core business objectives and what Bell Pottinger delivered – including winning the attention of key decision-makers in banks across Europe, high-quality media coverage, interest from potential employees and qualified leads across Ripple’s target market.

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Entry:

Brief and objectives:

Ripple, a Silicon Valley blockchain start-up, provides global financial settlement solutions to enable the world to exchange value like it exchanges information. It appointed Engage by Bell Pottinger in July 2016 to support its entry into the European market.

  • Business objective: Winning the attention of, and getting in front of, key decision makers at European banks
  • Short-term communications objective: Introduce Ripple to the market and increase awareness of its technology amongst target audiences – specifically the banks
  • Long-term communications objective: Enable Ripple to shape and lead industry conversation and be seen as the ‘distributed financial technology king’ in Europe.

Rationale behind campaign, including research and planning:

Engage conducted audience research using digital tools including Pulsar, Global Web Index and Factiva to determine Ripple’s challenge in Europe. The agency analysed its reach, brand perception and relationships across all channels and decision making audiences. The research established that despite financial institutions recognising the need to embrace new technologies, the communications challenge facing Ripple was that the European market had an inherent lack of understanding of blockchain technology and its proven commercial applications.

Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:

The strategy resulted in multiple qualified bank leads and was based on key insight developed through in-depth market analysis. The research indicated that, despite banks recognising the need to embrace new technologies, the European market had an inherent lack of understanding of blockchain and its applications.

To solve this challenge, we needed to transform Ripple’s highly complex narrative into a story that brought to life and articulated the commercial blockchain opportunity.

Then, we would tell this story to influencers who could catapult Ripple into the consideration cycle for the big banks.

Our work focused on three key areas:

Awareness:

  • Messaging: Simplify and humanise Ripple’s complex technology story
  • Narrative: Use simplified messaging to build Ripple’s narrative and change the way the rand and its spokespeople communicate
  • Launch: Communicate narrative through a sustained programme of news and thought-leadership.

Education:

  • Stakeholders: Regularly drive industry stakeholder engagement
  • Engagement: Strategically schedule news announcements to create steady media coverage and influencer engagement.

Advocacy:

  • Partnerships: Partner with tier one global banks trailing Ripple technology and share through curated news announcements and events
  • Relationships: Collaborate with event organisers to secure high-profile speaker slots and awards.

Implementation of tactics:

The three-phased strategic communications plan increased awareness (76 articles secured), educated key stakeholders (introduced Ripple to over 30 new media) and built advocacy (50 job applications in 24 hours and multiple qualified bank leads).

Simplified messaging and compelling content:

  • Simplified Ripple’s complex technology story helping the brand appeal to specialised and non-specialised audiences
  • Identified key spokespeople including banking veterans and tech experts who would resonate best with Ripple’s different audiences
  • Ensured messaging was adopted and used in conversations through media training and messaging sessions for spokespeople
  • Produced compelling content that simplified complex issues such as the Internet of Value, digital currencies and the benefits of blockchain. This positioned Ripple as a thought leader understood by all audiences.

Regular and sustained media and influencer engagement:

  • Introduced Ripple to influential top-tier national and trade journalists to establish its presence in the UK market through a launch event
  • Over six months, Ripple met for the first time with 30 journalists from 27 publications and wires including; Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Bloomberg, CNBC, The Telegraph, City AM and the Press Association
  • Using its simplified messaging to build relationships, Ripple positioned itself as a blockchain front-runner and a company that could educate the market on its commercial applications
  • Regularly briefed European media through strategically planned news announcements, reactive industry commentary, feature contributions and proactive meetings
  • Ripple’s funding and customer announcement in September, 2016 resulted in over 50 pieces of tier one media coverage globally, multiple qualified leads, 2,000 views and 110 new subscribers to the Ripple Insights blog (typically achieved in a month), 17,000 organic website visits (vs. average 2,500) and 50 job applications in just 24 hours.

Leveraging partnerships:

  • To further establish Ripple’s presence in the European market, we devised an events schedule that detailed the events Ripple spokespeople should attend, speak at and sponsor
  • Developed a proprietary events scoring system where the team at Ripple and its agencies could make consistently qualified recommendations about involvement in events
  • Secured valuable speaking slots at events such as Money 20/20 Europe and Innovate Finance Global Summit. These strategically selected events positioned Ripple as an industry thought leader and put the company centre stage in front of attendees comprising key decision makers from its target audience
  • To further build market credibility, we leveraged Ripple’s partnerships with tier one global banks for media announcements and opportunities. This helped Ripple engage with prospective customers and build a platform to successfully take its news to the media and top industry influencers.

Measurement and evaluation:

Bell approaches measurement as a fundamental part of Ripple’s communications programme.

  • Generated 76 pieces of media coverage in just six months
  • Activity resulted in multiple qualified leads generated and 2 conversions
  • When Ripple added 7 new banks to its network and secured $55 million of funding, we secured 27 pieces of tier one media coverage in the UK, driving multiple qualified leads from banks, 2,000 views and 110 new subscribers to the Ripple Insights blog (more than it usually gets in one month), 17,000 organic website visits and 50 job applications in 24 hours
  • Ripple works with over 90 banks globally, and its global network now includes 15 of the top 50 global banks, 10 in commercial deal phases and more than 30 bank pilots completed.

Budget and cost effectiveness:

The budget for this campaign was £52,000 from July to December, 2016 (including £48,000 agency fees and £4,000 third-party costs). The Bell Pottinger team consisted of four, reporting directly into David Patterson, Ripple’s Director of Corporate Communications, in San Francisco.

The PR retainer consisted of the following activities:

  • Campaign planning and on-going counsel
  • Media relations activity
  • Content development
  • Event support
  • Awards development
  • Account management.